The Jackbox Party Packs have become something of an institution among my friendship groups in the last couple of years; entertaining a party of 5 or more people, that therefore cannot be quelled by Mario Party and thwarted by the Gamecube’s poor port-short four-port support? Whack on a Jackbox, whip out your internet-enabled smart-device, and figuratively go to town. They’re games that thrive on creativity, on in-jokes and poking fun, and continue in the great tradition of parlour games (or for students and people from this century, drinking games). This pack, like its predecessors, offers five different games for the price of admission – which is 500% more game than most games (better than a casino bonus actually) – so it only seems reasonable to break these games down individually before deciding whether this pack parties hard, or party foul.
YOU DON’T KNOW JACK: Full Stream – Lol-st in Space
This pack marks the triumphant return of the titular Boxed Jack, from which the entire franchise originally grew – a comedy quick-fire quiz-show that could make even Stephen Hawking feel like Patrick Star. Mixed in among fairly standard, albeit usually hilarious, trivia questions are bonus rounds where the game really shines – including “Dis or Dat (in the game I played we were given “Kanye West songs or Brands of Almond Milk,” which safe to say I was utter garbage at), “Jack Attack,” (which was about synonyms and took me from dead last to almost winning) and personal favourite, “Octopus, Coffee, Queen Elizabeth or Frankenstein (The Doctor that is).” The questions are randomised this tie instead of being in pre-set “episodes”, and the control interface has been nicely streamlined to suit phone controllers better, whereas previously it hadn’t really evolved since the original on the Playstation One, which even a Velociraptor would scoff at and consider old-fashioned. The only real issues I have with this one are that the questions couldn’t be more Americanised if they were wearing stetsons and starting wars, which can make some trivia basically random guesses for Brits, and this game crashed a couple times while playing on Switch – which hopefully can be addressed in a stability patch, and other Switch-specific upgrades like not going into sleep mode because the “controller” isn’t being used are appreciated
Split The Room: Laugh and a Half
Split the Room for me was the most interesting of the new games on paper; hosted in a lawyer-approved Twilight Zone knock-off, a well-mannered Schrodinger’s Cat tasks players with inventing a scenario that will split the opinions of their colleagues as evenly as possible. Although visuals have never been particularly important to the Jackbox franchise – as long as your quips are readable everything else is gravy and realistically you could be playing on a Commodore 64 for all the difference it made – it’s worth highlighting that this game is particularly well-animated, and this pack in general has a really fun visual style. Typically you’re either finishing a scenario (A wealthy financier will pay for your wedding, but only if you host it in one of those phone case shops you’re pretty sure is a front for some serious money laundering, just for instance) or providing an alternative to a given reply, with the aim of, if it wasn’t apparent, Splitting the Room. I have some minor doubts about the replayability of this one, but it was excellent fun during the games I’ve had so far.
Patently Stupid: Dragon’s Dumb
I’m upset with this game because it proves I don’t know anything; I was fully expecting this game to be the “weak link” of the pack, yet conversely it’s easily the best game of the bunch and one of the best Jackbox games full stop. The premise is simple: Mr.Peanutbutter and Monica from Friends are hosting a seminar on entrepreneurship. After “Market Research,” which is basically a round of Quiplash where you fill in a blank to create a problem (My Dog is TOO COLD, I want to find SOMEONE ANYONE, National Airlines won’t let me take SEVENTEEN LITRES OF UMBONGO on a plane, etc.), you have to draw an invention, then name it and give it a tagline, before presenting it to your competition, Dragon’s Den-style, in an attempt to receive funding. And it’s utterly hilarious. While you’re presenting you’re given full control over when your materials appear, so you can really customise your presentation to your comedic timing – and, if you’re a little stage-shy, the aforementioned doofus duo will happily present your product for you. I though the structured nature of this one would kill it, but the opposite is true; it’s a vehicle to some of the best laughs Jackbox, in its entirety, has to offer.
Mad Verse City: Mock’em Sock’em Robots
Surrounded by the remains of a fallen society, giant Transformer-esque robots themed around 90’s technology engage in red-hot rap battles. For some reason. This is the first Jackbox game that I’ve found to make me a little self-conscious – it’s so ludicrously silly that it can take a moment to really get into it. You’re tasked with providing a word that’ll end the first half of a rhyming couplet, then given the whole first line (and it’s usually hilarious nonsense) and asked to write the second; the winner being whoever roasts their opponent the fiercest, and so the winner should always be my faulty second-year student oven, ha ha ha. The raps are spat by text-to-speech robots, which asides from the obvious homonym problem (like making a distinction between bow as in “take a bow” and bow as in “bow and arrow”) are surprisingly fluent and unsurprisingly comical, and the menu has a few clicker-esque activities for you to do while everyone finishes their fly rhymes, which is a nice inclusion. A very solid addition to the Jackbox back-catalogue, one that’ll no doubt split some sides.
Zeeple Dome: Zeeple Moan
And then, of course, there’s the actual weak link; the game in every set that proves the Jackbox staff aren’t humour-spewing gods quite yet, and are still a little way away from alchemically refining the pure essence of party. For reference, by the way, in my oh-so humble opinion, the weak links in pack 4 and 3 are Civic Doodle and Fakin’ It respectively. I do appreciate the creativity that has gone into Zeeple Dome; unlike every previous Jackbox game, it’s an action game, where you’re required with slinging your little Teletubby-With-Dwarfism dude into bad guys. The only trouble is it’s remarkably imprecise; there’s a fairly significant input delay, which when you’re trying to aim and already getting bashed about like lemmings in a tumble dryer, makes things only slightly better than random, it’s like trying to shepherd a cow by only being allowed to brush it’s hair in the direction you want it to go. It’ll get you laughing and screeching at your friends, which at the end of the day is pretty much the point, and for a first foray into a new genre it’s fairly respectable, but it needs some heavy refinement and I can’t see myself wanting to play this one given the other games on offer.
Overall, and this isn’t a statement I make without some fairly heavy consideration, I think this may well be the strongest Jackbox Party Pack to date. It’s missing a Quiplash, which is the backbone of Jackbox at this point, but can also be purchased individually so that’s no big deal, and it’s slightly more pricey than the other collections, but at the end of the day, ain’t no party like a Jackbox party. Hey. Ho.